Features // Europe

Into the valley: hearing a Welsh choir
Into the valley: hearing a Welsh choir

The road into Senghenydd from the imposing Welsh castle town of Caerphilly snakes along the side of a steep slope that drops into a rocky valley below. Lined with red-toned terraced houses constructed from local stone, the village almost clings to the hillside, and though coal mining died out here long ago, the landscape still…

Hoarding books in Hay-on-Wye, Wales
Hoarding books in Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Though a drive through the electrically green countryside that surrounds Hay-on-Wye makes for a perfectly lovely afternoon, a more potent draw is the sleepy Welsh town’s mouthwatering amount of printed matter: with over a million books crammed into its aging stores, quaint, cobblestoned Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli, in Welsh) is a bibliophilic Mecca to be reckoned…

Arrivals: the latest travel news
Arrivals: the latest travel news

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks some of the most unusual stories in the latest travel news. Turkey introduces e-visas for tourists If you’re travelling to Turkey later this year, you might have to do some forward planning. Tourists arriving in the country after 10th April…

Beyond the colleges: things to do in Cambridge
Beyond the colleges: things to do in Cambridge

Cambridge is deservedly famous for its university, and seeing the colleges is at the top of any visitor’s list – closely followed by punting of course – but there are a host of other reasons to visit. Rebecca Hallett explores all that Cambridge has to offer beyond chapels, courts and students. Museums & galleries Among…

A retreat with Catholic Nuns in Norfolk
A retreat with Catholic Nuns in Norfolk

There may be no better way to unwind than staying at the Quidenham Carmelite Monastery: a convent of Catholic nuns who have pledged a vow of silence. In the midst of the stress of a university dissertation, Lottie Gross escaped from the world and learned what it’s like to live the quiet life – literally.…

Sauntering through the ruins of Ani, Turkey
Sauntering through the ruins of Ani, Turkey

The ruins of Ani are a traveller’s dream – picture-perfect scenery, whacking great dollops of history, and almost nobody around to see it. While Turkey as a whole has been enjoying ever more popularity as a tourist destination, the number heading to its eastern reaches remains thrillingly low, lending an air of mystery to its…

Get down and dirty in Dalyan, Turkey
Get down and dirty in Dalyan, Turkey

Stepping off the boat at Dalyan’s mud baths, you’ll be forgiven for wishing you hadn’t. But don’t be put off by the revolting rotten-egg stench of the sulphur pools – after a revitalizing day here, you’ll be gagging for more. The instructions are simple – roll in the mud, bake yourself in the sun till…

Snapshot: Dubrovnik and around, Croatia
Snapshot: Dubrovnik and around, Croatia

Huddled at the base of a rugged mountainside, the elegant city of Dubrovnik is Croatia’s irresistibly beautiful star attraction. Lapped by the glittering Adriatic Sea, its sturdy walls encircle white marble streets and Baroque churches; off the coast lie wooded islands with extensive, rocky beaches and crystal-clear seas. Taken from the Rough Guides Snapshot, these are…

Music, dance and drama in ancient Aspendos, Turkey
Music, dance and drama in ancient Aspendos, Turkey

It’s a hot summer’s evening; overhead is a soft, purple-black and star-strewn sky. The incessant chirrup of cicadas mingles with the murmur of thousands of voices – Turkish, German, English, Russian – and the popping of corks, as the 15,000-strong audience settles down, passes round wine and olives and eagerly awaits the entertainment ahead. All…

European Capital of Culture 2014: why Riga?
European Capital of Culture 2014: why Riga?

January 2014 sees the start of Riga’s year-long stint as European Capital of Culture, an honour it shares with the Swedish town of Umeå. The occasion provides the Latvian capital with a golden opportunity to shrug off its reputation as a cheap destination for boozy breaks, and focus instead on the more creative aspects of…

Navigating a Swedish smorgasbord, Sweden
Navigating a Swedish smorgasbord, Sweden

Offhand, how many different ways can you think of to prepare herring or salmon? The two fish are staples of the smörgåsbord and, at last count, there were well over 120 varieties being used in restaurants and kitchens across Sweden. The Swedish smörgåsbord (literally “buttered table”) is a massive all-you-can-eat buffet where you can sample…

Behold the northern lights, Sweden
Behold the northern lights, Sweden

They appear as shimmering arcs and waves of light, often blue or green in colour, which seem to sweep their way across the dark skies. During the darkest months of the year, the northern lights, or aurora borealis, are visible in the night sky all across northern Sweden. Until you see the light displays yourself,…

Hearing wolves howl, Sweden
Hearing wolves howl, Sweden

Deep in the Swedish birch forest your mind can begin to play tricks. As the shadows lengthen and a chill creeps into the pine-scented air you’re reminded of the folk tales that originated here, from gnomes and trolls to the siren call of the Tallemaja or “Lady of the Woods”. But there is one much-mythologized creature very much…

The best places to visit in March
The best places to visit in March

Whether you fancy an Aussie music festival, a literary break in England or sake and sakura in Japan, March is an excellent month to travel. Spring breathes new life into the northern hemisphere, while riotous festivals take place everywhere from Ireland to Brazil. Here are our tips on the best places to visit in March. See…

Cycling from London to Paris: the Avenue Verte
Cycling from London to Paris: the Avenue Verte

Launched in 2012, the Avenue Verte is a low-traffic cycle route connecting London and Paris, making the most of southern England’s extensive National Cycle Network and France’s bucolic north. Greg Dickinson took to the saddle and put the route to the test. “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country…

Painting the town red at La Tomatina in Spain
Painting the town red at La Tomatina in Spain

On the last Wednesday of every August, 130,000 kilos of over-ripe tomatoes are hurled around the alleyways of Buñol until the tiny town’s streets are ankle deep in squelching fruit. What started in the 1940s as an impromptu food fight between friends has turned into one of the most bizarre and downright infantile fiestas on…

Hitting Ibiza’s closing parties
Hitting Ibiza’s closing parties

Ibiza’s summer clubbing season is an orgy of hedonism, full of beats, late nights and frazzled young things. It reaches a messy climax in September, when the main club promoters and venues host a series of seratonin-sapping parties to round things off and extract a few final euros from their battered punters. These end-of-season events…

7 useful pronunciation rules for travellers
7 useful pronunciation rules for travellers

During World War II, Dutch Resistance fighters exposed infiltrators by asking them to pronounce Scheveningen; with its two subtly different gutturals, it was a trick only native speakers could pull off. The stakes of course aren’t so high when you’re on holiday in a new place, but there is some satisfaction in not immediately revealing…

The best places to visit in February
The best places to visit in February

Dark, dreary and cold in Europe and North America, February often feels like a long drag before spring arrives. Yet it’s a fantastic time to travel. Warm, balmy weather and riotous carnivals beckon below the equator, while chillier climes should be embraced for snow-fuelled activities and unique wildlife watching opportunities. Here are our tips on…

Browsing La Boqueria, Spain
Browsing La Boqueria, Spain

It happens to most newcomers: noses flare, eyes widen and pulses quicken upon entering La Boqueria, Barcelona’s cathedral to comida fresca (fresh food). Pass through the handsome Modernista cast-iron gateway and you’re rapidly sucked in by the raw, noisy energy of the cavernous hall, the air dense with the salty tang of the sea and…

Mosaics and marble: touring the Moscow Metro
Mosaics and marble: touring the Moscow Metro

Opened in 1935, the Moscow Metro was one of the USSR’s most extravagant projects. Its stations, with their lavish and ornate interiors, were conceived as showcases of Soviet success, and aimed at making the city the world’s capital of Communism. Follow Kiki Deere’s tour of the most spectacular metro stops to learn more about Russia’s…

Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands
Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands

First, be glad that it rains so much in Scotland. Without the rain the rivers here wouldn’t run – the Livet, the Fiddich, the Spey. Without the rain the glens wouldn’t be green and the barley wouldn’t grow tall and plump. Be glad it’s damp here in Scotland. Peat needs a few centuries sitting in…

How to get away from it all
How to get away from it all

It’s one of the ultimate travel goals: how to well and truly get away from it all. Here’s ten trips, selected by the writers and editors at Rough Guides, that offer true isolation and recuperation. Share your own below. Sleep out in a remote bothy Britain may be one of the most crowded islands on…

22 stunning images from the Travel Photographer of the Year Awards
22 stunning images from the Travel Photographer of the Year Awards

After a search for the most captivating, exciting and beautiful travel photography, the Travel Photographer of the Year Awards announced their final winners last week. Here is a selection of our favourite images from this set of talented photographers. Eagle hunter, Alti Region, Mongolia By Simon Morris | http://www.tpoty.com Powell Point, Grand Canyon South Rim, USA  By Gerard Baeck…

Gigging in Glasgow, Scotland
Gigging in Glasgow, Scotland

Pop stars, travelling from coach to bar and from plane to arena, are notoriously oblivious about the city they happen to be performing in. There are countless stories of frontmen bellowing “Hello, Detroit!” when they’re actually in Toronto. But some places have a genuine buzz about them. London is fine, but all too often its…

A culinary ritual: exploring Georgian food
A culinary ritual: exploring Georgian food

With its stunning natural scenery, ancient towns and compelling history, Georgia really does have it all – and the food is no exception. Georgians are passionate about wine and love their sweets; eating here is more of a ritual than a meal. Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere talks us through an indulgent Georgian feast. As…

Win a luxury cabin break with Forest Holidays
Win a luxury cabin break with Forest Holidays

This competition is now closed. Check back later to find out the winner. Camping in the UK can be a gruelling affair, what with the high chance of rain and often low temperatures – not to mention the rocket science-like fiasco of constructing your nylon home for the night. So, we’ve teamed up with Forest…

Calling in the heavies at the Highland Games
Calling in the heavies at the Highland Games

Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of 10,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of al fresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you…

Standing at the heart of Mother Russia
Standing at the heart of Mother Russia

Stand in the middle of Moscow’s Red Square and in a 360-degree turn, the turbulent past and present of Russia is encapsulated in one fell swoop: flagships of Orthodox Christianity, Tsarist autocracy, communist dictatorship and rampant consumerism confront each other before your eyes. Red Square, is, well, red-ish, but its name actually derives from an old Russian word for…

Soviet Exhibitionism in Moscow, Russia
Soviet Exhibitionism in Moscow, Russia

For a taste of all the Soviet Union once promised and an illustration of what it has come to, there’s nowhere better than the all-Russian Exhibition Centre, known by its acronym VDNKh. This enormous park in northeast Moscow is a glorious illustration of Soviet hubris, an exuberant cultural mix ’n’ match vision of a world…

St Petersburg’s White Nights
St Petersburg’s White Nights

Imagine spending all day sightseeing, taking a shower and a nap, and then looking out of the window to see the sky as bright as midday. Your body kicks into overdrive, and the whole day seems to lie ahead of you. The streets throng with people toting guitars and bottles of champagne or vodka; naval…

The world’s best speakeasies
The world’s best speakeasies

Why party with the masses when you can steal away with others in-the-know at an underground speakeasy, or find yourself a key to the best secret bar in the city? We know them all, but luckily for you, we’re not very good at keeping secrets; here is a BarChick rundown of the best places for…

Take the Trans-Mongolian Express
Take the Trans-Mongolian Express

Even after seven unbroken days on a train from Moscow, nothing can prepare you for the Chinese border. As you pull into the platform, which is lit up in neon colours, a Chinese-tinged version of the Vienna Waltz comes blaring over the Tannoy. Trying to work out the cultural relevance of this is a hopeless…

Taking a ride through Lisbon’s historic quarters
Taking a ride through Lisbon’s historic quarters

Just as you should arrive in Venice on a boat, it is best to arrive in Lisbon on a tram, from the point where many people leave it for good: at Prazeres, by the city’s picturesque main cemetery. Get a taxi to the suburban terminus of tram 28 for one of the most atmospheric public-transport…

Clearing your calendar for bacalhau, Portugal
Clearing your calendar for bacalhau, Portugal

On Lisbon’s Rua do Arsenal, whole window displays are lined with what looks like crinkly grey cardboard. The smell is far from alluring, but from these humble slabs of cod the Portuguese are able to conjure up an alleged 365 different recipes for bacalhau, one for each day of the year. Reassuringly, none of this mummified fish dates back…

Heart of stone: losing yourself in deepest Iberia
Heart of stone: losing yourself in deepest Iberia

The Beira Baixa is a land of burning plains and granite visions, isolated in one of the most remote corners of Western Europe, where the Spanish border blurs under a broiling sun. Here, if you search hard enough, you’ll find at least two of the most startling medieval villages in Europe: Monsanto – Mon Sanctus…

Party in the sun at Boom, Portugal
Party in the sun at Boom, Portugal

Twenty thousand revellers each year come to Boom, Europe’s greatest outdoor dance-music festival, which takes place for a week over the August full moon on a lakeside ranch about 60km from Lisbon. In true summer-of-love fashion it combines non-stop dance music with eco-idealism: here you’ll find sustainability workshops, recycling and composting bins, a permaculture garden…

Hiking in the Tatras, Poland
Hiking in the Tatras, Poland

The country’s traditional attractions – Warsaw’s lively old town and Kraków’s gorgeous squares – are worthwhile stops, but it’s easy to forget that there is another Poland, a genuine wilderness of high (and often snowbound) peaks, populated by lynx and bears. The Tatras Mountains are as beautiful as any national park in Europe, and their…

The best places to visit in January
The best places to visit in January

January doesn’t have to be that depressing, post-Christmas comedown month we’re all used to. There’s so much going on across the world, so whether it’s celebrating Australia Day in the sunshine or bagging bargains at the January sales in London, there are plenty of ways to banish those post-holiday blues. Here are our top places…

Rough Guides readers around the world
Rough Guides readers around the world

[<a href="//storify.com/RoughGuides/where-you-are-in-the-world" target="_blank">View the story "Where you are in the world" on Storify</a>]

Amongst monks on Mount Athos, Greece
Amongst monks on Mount Athos, Greece

In search of the spiritual side of Greece – and perhaps himself – Marc Perry discovers the trials and tranquility of the lives of Mount Athos’s monks. The ferry to Mount Athos is a serene, sedate affair. Women are left behind, as black-clad, bearded monks and priests finger rosary beads and contemplate the steep rise…

Crossing cultural boundaries in Krakow
Crossing cultural boundaries in Krakow

Poland’s oldest football team, Cracovia Kraków, serves as a metaphor for the multicultural history of the city. During the interwar years, Cracovia was nicknamed the “Yids” because significant members of Kraków’s Jewish community were on both the terraces and the team sheet. It also happened to be the favourite team of local boy Karol Wojtyła, who would later become…

A to B by cross-country ski, Norway
A to B by cross-country ski, Norway

With 30,000km of marked trails, Norway is the true home of cross-country skiing, the original and most effective means of getting yourself across snowbound winter landscapes. And it’s easier and less daunting to learn than the more popular downhill variety (well, more popular outside Scandinavia – here, everyone is a cross-country skier from the age…

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